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How to Talk to Your College Kid About Bed Bugs

08/30/2016

Did your kid head off the college this month? Then maybe it's time to have “the talk.”

Photo by: Shutterstock

No, we don't mean the birds and the bees. We mean the bed bugs.

You’ve probably told your child at one point or another: “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” But paired with nursery rhymes about dishes running away with spoons and other such nonsense, the warning probably didn’t bear much weight. But make no mistake: Bed bugs are real, and they’re a real pain.

Actually, scratch that. Bed bug bites don’t hurt. They itch, though. And sometimes a skin reaction — usually raised bumps or minor swelling — won’t show up for one to two weeks after a bed bug has bitten, making it easy to dismiss as something else.

So when sending your kid off to get educated, educate him or her on avoiding bed bugs.

Bed Bugs 101


The common bed bug, or Cimex lectularius, is a reddish-brown insect that grows to about a quarter of an inch in length. It dines exclusively on blood, though it’s not known to carry or transmit any human diseases through its bite.

Bed bugs make themselves at home in beds and blankets, but they’re also happy to hang out in baseboards, doorframes and voids in the wall. But bed bugs aren’t homebodies. They travel from other homes, hotel rooms and apartments by stowing away in luggage, furniture and other items — meaning those futons and beanbag chairs making their way across the country for freshman orientation might be carrying an unpleasant surprise or two.

Warning Signs


Bed bugs’ ability to hitch a ride and hide makes them difficult to get rid of, so it's important to keep an eye out. Bed bugs are hard to detect in their early stages. Eggs are very small, pearly white and often found in clusters about one millimeter long. However, when you see live or dead bugs, dark spots on a mattress, blood spots on sheets or the empty, tan-colored skins left behind when bed bugs molt, you know you’ve got adult bed bugs. At the first sign of eggs or adults you know it’s time to call Terminix®.

Beating Bed Bugs


Given bed bugs’ honor society-level abilities to spread and take cover, working with a professional is important. We know what it takes to track them down, and we leave no rock unturned. Or, more accurately, no crevice uninspected.

Unfortunately, there might be some collateral damage. Infested furniture has typically needed to be marked and properly disposed of. However, the Terminix RapidFreeze® service is an effective treatment that can rid you of your problem without the need to throw out your belongings. The method utilizes carbon dioxide converted into dry ice "snow" that freezes and kills bed bugs as well as their eggs and nymphs. How's that for a science lesson?

There are a number of other treatment options available, so you should consult a Terminix professional for the best solution for your situation.

Precautionary Measures


Obviously, you’d rather avoid bed bugs in the first place. Here are a few tips:

  • Take a close look. Examine dorm-issued mattresses, headboards, bed frames and dressers for any signs of bed bugs before you even think about hauling in that mini-fridge.

  • Consider a mattress encasement. They’re made of a material that makes it hard for bed bugs to get in or out.

  • Stock up on quarters. Emphasize to your kids that they shouldn’t wait until Thanksgiving to haul home their dirty clothes to the Mom laundromat. Regularly washing clothes, towels and bedding in soapy water and allowing them to thoroughly dry is helpful in the battle against bed bugs.

  • Think outside the dorm room. Again, bed bugs don’t just stay in bed. They’re adept at hitching a ride, so think about other places you might be harboring or transporting these pests. Luggage, gym bags and camping equipment all are prime candidates.



Remember: There's only so much you can do about being assigned a weird roommate. But the bed bug doesn't have to be it.

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